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It’s Not Always a Bad Thing for Rents to Rise With Transit Growth

Yonah Freemark | CityLab

Residents of Somerville, Massachusetts, are beginning to fear that the Green Line extension may also produce gentrification and displacement.
Locals do have reason to worry, as Cities reported earlier this week, but there’s also reason to be optimistic about the future. The planned light rail line will provide a major transit upgrade over the patchwork of slow buses that serve most of the city. With high densities and low car use, Somerville is the perfect place for new mass transit; no wonder advocates have been pushing for the project for years.

Many cities around the United States are trapped in the same dilemma between a desire for transit growth and a fear of rising rents. It’s true that one often leads to the other. A 2010 report found that between 1990 and 2000, rent increased more quickly in transit areas across the country than in the surrounding metropolitan areas. The change doesn’t always take long: another study, examining the effects of the construction of Chicago’s Midway Orange Line in 2004, concluded that property values along the line increased even in advance of opening.

But are rising housing prices as a result of mass transit development necessarily a bad thing? The real story is more nuanced. Read more

California: Affordable housing at issue in cap-and-trade talks

Matthew Artz | Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — With billions of dollars forecast to flow into state coffers under a landmark clean air act, there is a battle underway over how to allocate the money.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was in Oakland on Wednesday promoting his plan that includes setting aside one-fifth of the funds for affordable housing construction near transit hubs.

Steinberg’s plan differs from a proposal laid out earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown, who suggested spending more on high-speed rail and didn’t include money for transit-oriented affordable housing development. Read more

Long Beach’s on a new track of development

Long Beach has only two transit-oriented developments – if you ask the state.

But ask the city, developers and transit advocates and a different story emerges: Transit-oriented development in Long Beach is on the rise, despite a stricter state definition, as a generation that shuns car-centric culture relocates to hip Long Beach neighborhoods such as downtown and the East Village.

New apartments and mixed-use developments in those areas haven’t gotten subsidies or other state financial incentives but are benefiting from local rule changes that make it easier for developers to build in the dense downtown.

A case in point: the Sixth Street Lofts coming to the East Village. Demolition of the current property at 431 E. Sixth St. is set for later this month, after which construction will start on the 30-unit, multistory residential development that’s set to be completed in 2015. Read more

Panel looks to map future of public transit in Pittsburgh

The Port Authority is hosting an assemblage of experts from across the nation this week who will help develop a proposed blueprint for the future of public transit service here.

A panel commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Urban Land Institute will interview nearly 80 people, ranging from public officials to planners to neighborhood leaders. They also will tour the bus and rail system before compiling a list of recommendations, authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said.

The effort will culminate with a Friday morning public presentation at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, followed by a written report, he said. Read more

Is the MBTA Rooting Itself Into the Rooftop Gardening Business?

Steve Annear | Boston Daily

Boston’s own rooftop farm, Higher Ground Farm, has proved to be a success, considering they recently expanded their space far above the city’s streets to accommodate local businesses’ growing needs for fresh produce.

But they better look out, because now the MBTA wants in on the crop share. According to a recent call for proposals from Transit Realty, the company that manages bids and business opportunities for the T’s development and real estate department, a relatively new program that has been in the works for the last six months is giving other interested entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their plans for a possible rooftop garden to be housed on some of the MBTA’s properties.  Read more

What will Downtown Atlanta look like in a decade?

Max Blau | CL Atlanta

Downtown is currently undergoing a series of massive changes. There are a wide variety of high-profile projects being built including a new stadium, museums, streetcar, academic buildings, and residential units. Those kinds of developments could have a positive impact. But it’s unclear how all of them together will impact the neighborhood 10 years down the road. Several Atlantans from different backgrounds including residents, politicians, and civic leaders described what they think Downtown will be like a decade from now. Read more

Railroad to take the high road

Lidia Dinkova | Miami Today

What are now mainly parking lots might turn into a bustling downtown Miami train station complete with retail, offices, residences and a hotel.

All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries LLC, plans to build the southernmost station for its Orlando-Miami express rail line within a linear chunk of land linking Northwest First and Eighth streets along Northwest First Avenue near county hall.

While All Aboard Florida hasn’t released official plans for its downtown Miami station, proposals in an environmental assessment show what could be.

The preferred station location – the option recommended for further study – calls for an about 45-foot viaduct that would run along the existing Metrorail and take passengers not only over Northeast Eighth and Sixth streets but also over the existing Metromover tracks along Northeast Fifth Street.

The line would pass at street level underneath the Dolphin Expressway and then begin the incline onto the viaduct. Northwest Eleventh and Tenth streets would be blocked to allow for the train’s escalation, records show.

The street closures would affect “local streets rather than a major state or federal thoroughfare,” and alternate routes are nearby, according to the environmental assessment. Read more

Four development ideas Boston should steal

Paul McMorrow | Boston Globe

FOR THE past 20 years, development in Boston has happened in a disjointed, unpredictable manner. Mayor Marty Walsh took office promising to smooth out construction approvals for both developers and residents. Boston has a lot of catching up to do on this front, and Walsh’s team should start by looking outside City Hall. Here are four good ideas from other cities that Boston planners should steal.

■ Make upzoning easy. Boston isn’t Houston. It can’t grow by loosening its belt and spilling outward. If Boston is going to keep growing, that growth will have to come around subway nodes. Transit enables developers to build far more densely than they would be able to in, say, West Roxbury. But for every Jackson Square or Downtown Crossing, where developers have successfully harnessed subway access to launch transformative housing developments, there’s an Andrew Square or a Forest Hills or a North Station, where residents have pushed for development parameters that minimize or ignore the subway stop next door.

Chicago successfully linked transit to development across the city in one swoop. Chicago’s transit-oriented zoning gives automatic height and density bonuses to new developments close to any subway stop. The zoning bonuses reward larger developments on main streets, and limit incursions onto smaller side streets. And by kicking in automatically, upzoning around transit means that the easiest building to construct is the type of building the city most wants to promote. Read more

In NYC, a $185M tunnel that leads nowhere, for now

Verena Dobnik | Yahoo Finance

NEW YORK (AP) — Taking shape on Manhattan’s West Side is a $185 million, federally funded tunnel that leads to nowhere, for now. The 800-foot-long, 35-foot-deep concrete trench could someday lead to two new commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River to New Jersey, if the billions needed to build them ever materialize.

The access tunnel is being built now because the massive Hudson Yards development with six skyscrapers, the tallest being 80 stories, will soon be built on top of it. Trying to dig such a huge trench through the bedrock after those buildings are completed, officials say, would be an
engineering and financial nightmare.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was among the lawmakers who pushed Congress to approve Superstorm Sandy relief money for the planned flood-resistant access tunnel, calling it mitigation to protect infrastructure from future storms. But he argued it would have to be built now because the skyscraper developers could not be delayed indefinitely. Read more

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